Written by Michael Carreras
Directed by Michael Carreras
Starring Eric Porter, Hildegard Knef, Suzanna Leigh, Tony Beckley, Nigel Stock
US Release July 5, 1962
RT 97 min.
Home Video Anchor Bay
Classic Horrors rating = 5 (out of 10)
Warning: review contains plot spoilers; ending of movie revealed.
When I wrote about The Vengeance of She, I called it “odd.” However, it has nothing over The Lost Continent. It’s actually a straightforward story with an interesting concept, but its primary flaw is that it’s unbalanced. The first two-thirds tediously depict the interactions among the passengers and crew of the ship, Corita, sailing for Caracas. It’s only during the final third when the ship arrives at its unusual destination that it picks up, but that’s also when the movie spins out of control into something I can barely describe.
We need more time on this “lost continent,” which isn’t really a continent at all. It’s primarily a Spanish galleon where marooned descendants of conquistadors and pirates have lived for years. Yes, there’s an island nearby, but I don’t believe it’s ever determined to be a “continent.” It is, however, the home of giant, ridiculous looking, crabs and scorpions. While they may not be safe from each other there, they’re at least safe from the killer seaweed that swims around them.
We need more story development for this “civilization.” Its origins are recounted at such lightning speed that we can barely keep up. We get a brief taste of their politics and power struggles, but I’d like to know how in the heck they figured out the balloons and paddles they use to walk across water. They’re introduced so randomly, and such little surprise is displayed by the passengers on the ship, that the entire experience feels like what I imagine a psychedelic drug trip to be.
The movie opens on the Corita with the funeral at sea for a child. After the service, Captain Lansen (Eric Porter) asks, “What happened to us? How did we all get here?” The rest of the movie is a flashback answering those questions. I didn’t realize until the end of the movie that the funeral attendees were such a strange group, composed of conquistadors, pirates, priests and seamen. Had this fact registered for me at the beginning, I might have been more intrigued. Otherwise, the setup was not all that compelling.
The passengers of the Corita all have their issues and/or secrets. Among them, Dr. Webster (Nigel Stock) has a strained relationship with his daughter, Unity (Suzanna Leigh). When he mentions that Unity needs to find her sea legs, the very next shot shows her trying to find something else in bed with a man. Another, Eva Peters (Hildegard Knef), was once famous and is hiding stolen bonds, while Ricaldi (Ben Carruthers) blackmails her to remain silent.
The most interesting thing about these characters is that, collectively, they would rather face an approaching hurricane than turn around and go back. They’re all running from something. Plus, Captain Lansen is smuggling ten tons of explosives that ignite when exposed to water. That makes it awfully tense when the ship springs a hole and water rushes into the cargo hold. It also makes it awfully convenient when they need a way to destroy the Spanish galleon later in the movie.
After facing these hazards, a thousand miles from the nearest land and floating away from the shipping lanes in a rowboat with small rations of food and water, one of them says, “We’re still alive… unfortunately.” Not for long. A shark kills Dr. Webster and Eva Peters shoots a member of the crew with a flare gun. Unity is loath to mourn Webster, saying, “He was never a father. He was a jailer.” They encounter the Corita and get back on board, where the bartender (Jimmy Hanley) serves them a nice breakfast.
Weeds foul the propeller, tentacles emerge from the sea to grab some people on deck, and the Corita is stranded. Captain Lansen spots land through his binoculars where there may be a chance of fresh water and fruit. However, he also sees “a huge insect or something.” Now, over an hour into The Lost Continent, they have arrived at… the lost “continent.” We ultimately learn the identity of the child for whom the funeral at the beginning of the movie is held.
He’s the leader of the religious zealots on the galleon, called “El Supremo.” Well, that’s what he calls himself. Those persecuted by him call him “El Diablo.” Convinced to join the good guys rather than fight them, he’s killed during an escape from the galleon. The real bad guy through the end is The Inquisitor (Eddie Powell), a man with a costume that’s a cross between a Ku Klux Klansman and Oogie Boogie from The Nightmare Before Christmas.
If The Lost Continent was 75 minutes of wackiness instead of 67 of story and only 30 of wackiness, it might be considered a cult classic, a movie praised for its insanity in movie going circles rather than ridiculed for its silliness on Mystery Science Theater 3000. It doesn’t fully embrace the nonsense; therefore, we can’t fully embrace the movie. Instead of enjoying it and re-watching it for fun, we’re left simply scratching our heads. I’ll quote Captain Lansen… sort of, “What happened to it? How did it get here?”